ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

cloudy-day Created with Sketch.
73°
Partly Cloudy
H 86° L 68°
  • cloudy-day Created with Sketch.
    73°
    Current Conditions
    Partly Cloudy. H 86° L 68°
  • cloudy-day Created with Sketch.
    81°
    Afternoon
    Partly Cloudy. H 86° L 68°
  • clear-day Created with Sketch.
    82°
    Evening
    Sunny. H 85° L 66°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Krmg news on demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Krmg traffic on demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Krmg weather on demand

00:00 | 00:00

National
Focus shifts to mother of toddler in hot car death
Close

Focus shifts to mother of toddler in hot car death

Focus shifts to mother of toddler in hot car death
Photo Credit: Kelly J. Huff / Pool / Marietta Daily Journal / AP
Leanna Harris, wife of Justin Ross Harris, the father of a toddler who died after police say he was left in a hot car for about seven hours, looks on during her husband's bond hearing in Cobb County Magistrate Court on July 3, 2014, in Marietta, Ga. Harris, who police say intentionally killed his toddler son by leaving the boy inside a hot SUV, was exchanging nude photos with women the day his son died and had looked at websites that advocated against having children, a detective testified Thursday. At that same hearing, a judge refused to grant bond for Harris, meaning he will remain in jail.

Focus shifts to mother of toddler in hot car death

Leanna Harris’ husband, prosecutors alleged Thursday, had two sides: Churchgoing family man and another, darker persona, one that compelled Ross Harris to knowingly leave their 22-month-old son to die, locked inside a sweltering SUV.

Based on her own, sometimes confounding words, along with evidence disclosed at her spouse’s probable cause hearing Thursday, many are wondering whether there’s another side to Leanna Harris.

>> RELATED: Prosecutors: Father was sexting while child sat in hot car

The 30-year-old dietitian, who two years ago moved to Georgia from Tuscaloosa, Ala., has not been charged with any crime. But police have disclosed that, like her husband, she had researched children dying in hot vehicles prior to her son Cooper’s death, telling officers it was her “worst fear.” On average, 38 kids die each year after being trapped inside automobiles, according to KidsAndCars.org.

Investigators described her behavior the day of her son Cooper’s death as odd, if not suspicious.

When informed by workers at her son’s day care facility that Cooper had never been dropped off, she calmly responded, “Ross must have left him in the car. There’s no other explanation,” according to Cobb County Police Det. Phil Stoddard’s testimony Thursday.

Then, when reunited with her husband at police headquarters after he had been charged with murder, Leanna Harris asked him, “Did you say too much?” according to Stoddard.

“There isn’t enough to make her a co-conspirator … yet,” said criminal defense lawyer Esther Panitch.

>> RELATED: Photos: Dad accused in son’s hot car death appears in court

Whatever Leanna Harris’ role winds up being in this case — witness, defendant or supportive wife — prosecutors and the public are taking note of her public actions. What they’ve seen so far is stoicism that seems at odds with what has become a public tragedy.

She has expressed little emotion throughout. At Thursday’s hearing, she stared blankly ahead, chewing gum as prosecutors delivered one bombshell after another.

When she called home June 18 with the grim news of Cooper’s death, her mother could be overheard on the phone: “Why aren’t you crying? Why aren’t you reacting?”

Her response, according to Stoddard: “I must be in shock.”

Then there was her eulogy at Cooper’s funeral last Saturday in Tuscaloosa. To those who don’t know her, Leanna Harris’ comment that she wouldn’t bring her son back, even if she could, seemed suspicious.

>> RELATED: Police: Father who left child in hot car charged with murder

“He’s in the most peaceful, wonderful place there is,” Leanna Harris said.

But the 250 or so mourners who gathered at University Church of Christ gave her two rounds of applause, and Harris’ statement is not unusual among the deeply religious who believe the afterlife is God’s greatest gift.

Still, it’s clear, according to veteran legal observers, that police are looking at Leanna Harris’ potential culpability in her son’s death. On Thursday, Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds said the investigation continues and “much work remains,” though he offered no details on where the probe may be headed.

“Knowledge of a crime isn’t prosecutable. A cover-up is,” Panitch said.

But if, as many increasingly believe, her husband ends up facing more significant murder charges, prosecutors may seek to use Leanna Harris as a witness. In Georgia, the spousal privilege shielding a wife from testifying against her husband, and vice-versa, doesn’t apply in cases of domestic violence or death of a child.

>> RELATED: 'I’ve killed our child,' dad screams over tiny body

“She needs to make a deal before the state finds more evidence against her,” Panitch said.

So far, Leanna Harris has remained loyal to her husband of seven years. At Cooper’s funeral, she said she holds no anger toward her husband.

“Ross is and was a wonderful father,” she said. As Ross Harris listened from jail on speaker phone, his wife told him, “I love you and I’m doing this for you.”

It’s unclear whether Leanna Harris knew then of her spouse’s “sexting” habits, first disclosed publicly during Thursday’s hearing. Friends and family shielded her from reporters as she left the courtroom and insist she’s a woman of strong faith who treasured her role as wife and mother. Ross Harris’ half-brother, Randy Michael Baygents, a police officer for nearly two decades, said Thursday had Ross Harris been released on bond he would have returned home.

“What you saw here is what is truly in her,” the Harris’ pastor, David Eldridge, said at Cooper’s funeral. “There is an example here for all of us on how to deal with things.”

>> Read more trending stories

Her eulogy was part memorial, part confessional.

“Some of you might wonder how I’m standing here today and I ask myself the same question,” Leanna Harris said. “I should be crumpled into a pile of tears and snot on the ground. (The Lord) is standing behind me, holding me up.”

She spoke of her difficulties getting pregnant and her awkward teen years.

“Junior high and senior high — they weren’t the happiest times (for me),” she said, listing heartbreaks her son would be spared. “He won’t have to suffer through the death of his (grandparents). He won’t have to suffer through the death of me and Ross.”

In his closing prayer, Eldridge said, “I’m not sure there’s a better testimony to who You are or what You do than Leanna.”

Read More
VIEW COMMENTS

There are no comments yet. Be the first to post your thoughts. or Register.

  • We know this might start an argument, but according to Business Insider, Oklahoma's most famous band EVER is the Flaming Lips. Business Insider admits the song 'She Don't Use Jelly' is the Norman-based indie rockers only U.S. hit. But they say the band has had many hits in the U.K. and Europe and, even more impressive, three Grammys to their credit. Some on the list are hard to argue with, like Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band in New Jersey or Nirvana in Washington State. You can see the entire list of the most famous bands here.
  • You thought your dog was ugly. The World's Ugliest Dog Contest is celebrating man's best friend's perfect imperfections in California on Friday. The pooches - many of which are adoptable or previously adopted - will face off in a red carpet walk and 'Faux Paw Fashion Show,' organizers said. The contestants are judged on first impressions, unusual attributes, personality and audience reaction. A blind Chihuahua-Chinese Crested mix named Sweepee Rambo bested 16 other homely hounds in last year's competition and waddled away with $1,500, a trophy and a flight to New York with her owner, Jason Wurtz, for media appearances. The then-17-year-old champion proved that third time's the charm after falling short in the competition twice before. By celebrating inner beauty, organizers said they hope to showcase that all dogs, regardless of physical appearance, can be lovable additions to any family. Contest rules prevent owners from intentionally altering their animals to enhance appearance for the purpose of the contest. These pooches are celebrated for their natural ugliness, organizers said.
  • With strong bipartisan support from both houses of Congress, President Donald Trump on Friday signed into law a plan to make it easier for the Veterans Affairs Department to get rid of employees for poor performance or misconduct, all in an effort to improve veterans health care and other services. “We’re taking care of our veterans and we’re taking care of them properly,” said the President, as he signed the bill at a White House ceremony. “Those entrusted with the sacred duty of serving our veterans will be held accountable for the care they provide,” Mr. Trump said. President Donald Trump on the VA accountability bill: 'This is one of the largest reforms to the VA in its history' https://t.co/NXXQ4plpBk — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) June 23, 2017 New legislation was needed from Congress mainly because previous efforts to make it easier to fire employees at the VA had become bogged down in the courts, even preventing the VA from getting rid of people like the former head of the Phoenix VA health care director, where a health care scandal broke out in 2014. “We won’t be able to accomplish any of the reforms we need to in the VA if we don’t get the right people in place,” said VA Secretary David Shulkin, who with the support of the President, has pressed ahead with internal changes. Shulkin said this new law would “make it easier and quicker to hold our employees accountable.” .@SecShulkin of @DeptVetAffairs joins @POTUS 4 signing Veterans Affairs Accountability & Whistleblower Protection Act pic.twitter.com/Yf3MsFZLbr — Sean Spicer (@PressSec) June 23, 2017 Among the changes in the bill: + A streamlined VA process to fire, suspend or demote workers for misconduct or poor performance + The Secretary would have the power to reduce the pension of a VA worker if that person is convicted of a felony crime that influenced their job performance + The VA would be allowed to claw back bonuses given to employees who are later found to have engaged in misconduct The new law also includes provisions to protect whistleblowers from retaliation inside the VA, and gives greater authority to the VA Secretary to fill top positions more quickly inside the VA health care system. “As you all know – all too well – for many years, the government failed to keep its promises to our veterans,” Mr. Trump said, saying “we are just getting started” on major changes to the VA, one of his central campaign promises in 2016.
  • Many experts say head lice infestations are at their peak during this time of the year as kids head off to summer camp. A Jacksonville, Florida, woman who owns a lice treatment center said it's most common with young children, but she's also seen an increase in cases of head lice in teens. Mandy Ottesen owns Fresh Heads. She said it’s very important that parents use a high-quality comb and check their children’s scalps often. “It’s our busiest time of the year,” Ottesen said. “Most people think we would be more busy when school is in session, but that’s not true.” With a lot of kids heading to camp during the summer, one concern that some parents overlook is head lice. Ottesen said lice is almost always transferred between direct head-to-head contact so infestations increase when children are in close proximity to each other. “With young kids, they have no personal-space preferences. They tend to be closer together than adults are,” she said. But Ottesen said she’s also seeing an increase in the number of high school students getting head lice. She said selfies could be to blame. Lice may jump from head to head as teens lean against each other to take photos. Ottesen said using a preventative head lice repellent can help ensure bugs don’t crawl into hair. To learn more about preventive products and treatment options for head lice, visit freshheadsliceremoval.com.
  • A driver is in serious condition following a rollover crash.   The driver apparently was driving too fast to negotiate the curve near 9200 East 46 Street near the U.S. post office around 2:22 a.m. Friday. He lost control of his pickup truck, causing it to overturn several times and throwing him out of the vehicle. Tulsa Police Corporal Jeremy Lawson said the driver “actually vaulted over a creek that runs underneath the road (and) rolled several times before coming to rest in a parking lot.”  The driver was not wearing a seat belt. The crash caused numerous injuries to the driver’s face. He was taken to a Tulsa hospital. Cpl. Lawson said both speed and alcohol are going to be factors in the accident. There were no passengers in the vehicle.